Monday, April 22, 2013

The Power of a Letter [A Confession]

None of my letters will ever reach a value of $3.4 million like this one signed by Abraham Lincoln (see photograph at right), but I do think they have value! I am one of these old fashioned people who likes to write on paper and send them with stamps and when I'm feeling particularly ebullient the letters come graced with stickers and random clippings!

Unless you receive letters from me, you probably don't much care about my idiosyncratic love of letter-writing, but there is another reason I bring this up. You are the recipient of one of the greatest letters of all time. If you are like me (NB: I do not assume that this is the case), You have heard this ad nauseum and are unimpressed by the fact that God wrote you a love letter. *yawn.

Wait! What?! Did I just yawn at the fact that the Almighty God, Creator of the universe, deigned to speak to His creation? How did I come to a place of such complacency and apathy? I open the Bible, flip a few pages, and say, "Yeah, yeah... I know. I've read this before." Where did this attitude come from?! How did I grow weary of a hearing truth repeated over and over? Its repetition does not make it any less true. Where did this arrogance come from?

I would like to answer the questions of the origins of my arrogant apathy, but more pertinent is the question of how to fix this! The power of this letter is ineffective if the letter is not read! The problem is not just my indifference, but the fatigue that has accrued in studying the Bible. Here are a few of the ways I have been trying to read it in a different way, but I am very much open to suggestions!

1) Listening to audio versions, rather than reading. 
Pro: I hear different emphases than I might be inclined to see if I read it to myself. I can't get hung up on a verse, but get more of the broader story.
Con: Sometimes the voices [I'm talking to you, Max McLean] are rather soothing and I find myself drifting...

2) Recording my own audio version.
Pro: I have to figure out the general flow of the passage to effectively record it. I have a much broader view of the context of individual verses. I discover different ideas while getting caught up in the tenor of a piece. I don't drift off, since I'm speaking it out loud. It is in this process that I find myself coming the closest to loving my time spent reading Scriptures.
Con: I have to find a quiet space where I can speak out loud without bothering anyone. I can get distracted by the technical quality of the recording rather than the words I am recording.

3) Reading without notes, pens, or highlighters.
Pro: I do not feel the pressure to "discover something new." I can relax into the narrative or ideas being presented.
Con: Often I find myself not remembering what I just read and the underlying structure of the passage is not as obvious to me.

So, this is where I am. My goal in this venture is well-stated by a friend of mine: "read [the Bible] as a means of pleasure and spending time with God as opposed to figuring out what God commands about such and such" [emphasis mine]. Faith is indeed a journey and we run the race with perseverance, even when it seems like the stitch in your side is killing you or at the very least making you slow to a crawl.